The NBA trade deadline is just days away, which means things around the league are about to get hectic. The Anthony Davis sweepstakes are dominating the news but he’s not the only star that could be available. There cold be some huge deals done before 3 p.m. CST on Thursday.
The Spurs are not expected to make a big move, but we’ll still have a primer on their assets, cap situation and potential targets very soon, so you have all the information you need to navigate the rumors.
Before focusing at the cold numbers and actual reports involving the Silver and Black, I thought it would be fun to play armchair General Manager. I’ll share what I think the Spurs should do during trade season and invite you to share your plans for the team in the comments section. Let’s begin.
Ask about Aaron Gordon but don’t go crazy
The Magic might not be interested in selling on Gordon yet, since they are still in the playoff chase and Jonathan Isaac hasn’t blossomed into a productive player. Yet there’s no harm in asking about his availability on the market, as long as the Spurs know when to draw the line and stop the negotiations.
Gordon is a perfect trade target since he could theoretically play next to Rudy Gay right now while also acting as insurance in case the veteran decides to leave when he becomes a free agent this off-season. He never took the leap into stardom many expected him to take, but the dysfunctional situation in Orlando is at least partially to blame for that. Under the right stewardship he could develop into a deadly combo forward in the mold of Tobias Harris and Gay himself but with the defensive versatility to guard four positions. He’s also just 23 years old, so he fits the timeline of the younger players that are emerging as the Spurs’ future core and has a contract that declines in value as years go by, potentially making him a bargain as he matures.
There are not a lot of young players productive enough to contribute now, on a good long term contract and with perceived untapped star potential, which is why if the Magic are open to moving him they might ask for a lot. If the fit were as snug as it first looks, I’d advocate for the Spurs to match that price, whichever it might be, but there are some concerns. Gordon replicates a lot of what Gay does. The two could play together but finding room for both would relegate Davis Bertans, having a breakout season, to a smaller role. Gordon has also fancied himself more of a perimeter player than a power forward up to this point, so he might not embrace the less glamorous work he seems better suited to fulfill in the short term, with Rudy still around.
If Gordon can be had for a combination of Pau’s contract, one young player not named Derrick White and a pick, I’d pull the trigger if I were the Spurs. Someone is probably going to beat that offer, though, and if the Magic’s starting price is higher, the conversation should be short before the Spurs stand down.
Stay away from Marc Gasol
It’s understandable to want to upgrade the big man rotation. Jakob Poeltl is a good backup but he can’t really share the court with Aldridge. Pau Gasol is serviceable but could be played off the floor in most playoff series. Marc Gasol, long a Spurs fans’ favorite, would be a significant upgrade over both and is available. Yet the Spurs should stay away.
The Spurs have tried going big this season and it just hasn’t worked. Aldridge is clearly better suited to play center right now, on both ends. Acquiring the youngest Gasol would also force the Spurs to reassess their current defensive game plan, as all the switching and helping they do now wouldn’t work with two bigs on the floor. On the other end the fit would be decent, as Gasol can shoot threes and facilitate from the high post, but he would need touches, which would probably mean benching Derrick White to accommodate another medium to high usage player in the starting lineup or at the very least rejiggering the second unit’s offense — which has been amazing as it is — to run through Marc.
Trading for Marc would essentially force the Spurs to go back to square one after going through the growing pains of developing an identity that relies on them being small and quick. Doing that wouldn’t be an issue if the player they were integrating was a star in his prime that fits with their other core pieces, but that’s not the case. Marc is 33 years old, plays the same position as Aldridge and could become a free agent at the end of the season. It just makes little sense to attempt to trade for him.
If an All-Star level point guard is getable, don’t worry about overlap
The Spurs have several guards already, including some that need the ball in their hands. For the second year in a row a young player has emerged as their potential lead guard of the future, so bringing in a veteran could actually create a logjam that hurts the growth of good prospects. Yet despite those concerns if Mike Conley or Jrue Holiday are available, the Spurs should go for them.
Conley would be a fit with the starters, since he’s used to playing at a slow pace and can play off the ball after years of sharing shot creating duties with Marc. He’s a capable catch-and-shoot three-point shooter and cutter. DeRozan was used to playing with a similar type of point guard in Kyle Lowry. White would have to make some adjustments, but could focus on defense and get touches with the subs. Holiday is used to playing faster, but he’s already been an All-Star on a slow Philadelphia team that featured several ball handlers. He’s an elite defender who’s arguably more comfortable next to a lead guard, so the fit with White would be seamless. DeRozan would likely have to settle for a slightly smaller role but could still dominate the ball with the second unit guys, a setting in which he’s excelled all year long.
The potential for a logjam is there, but it wouldn’t be as big of a worry as long as the Spurs send a guard out in the trade. Then next season when Murray returns, the Spurs would have a guard rotation featuring three good to great defensive guards who can play together in Conley/Holiday, Murray and White to go with their shooters. With DeRozan having essentially transitioned to small forward, there should be minutes for everyone.
Just like with Gordon, a trade for an All-Star level point guard won’t propel the Spurs to championship contention, so they would have to be weary of giving up too much. But they shouldn’t stay out of the sweepstakes just because they have similar players on the roster. In the modern NBA, you can’t ever have too many ball handlers.
Try to get Gordon, ask about the star point guards available, and stay away from Marc. That’s what I think the Spurs should do. Let me know what you think they should do.